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Food ethics: a Wide Field in Need of Dialogue

Journal article
Authors matthias kaiser
Anne Algers
Published in Food Ethics
Volume 1
Issue 1
Pages 1-7
ISSN 2364-6853
Publication year 2016
Published at Department of Applied Information Technology (GU)
Pages 1-7
Language en
Keywords Global food chains, inter-disciplinary, population growth, health, animal welfare, values, sustainability
Subject categories Biological Sciences, Health Sciences, Agricultural Science, Forestry and Fisheries, Animal and Dairy Science, Veterinary Science, Agricultural Biotechnology, Educational Sciences, Philosophy, Ethics and Religion


There are a few things which are obviously a central part of everyone’s life, at all times, and all over the globe, and which are crucial for our wellbeing. Food is, like sex, such an essential ingredient of our life, an ingredient of what we expect of a good life. What is on our plates is always a result of nature and culture, to the extent that it may seem hard to find commonalities in our global diet. As academics we have asked different questions about food. For a long time these questions have been dominated by the quest to secure enough food and to improve what we have got. It is, however, noteworthy that we also always have asked the normative questions in relation to food: Is it right to eat this kind of food? Do we produce our food the right way? Is there injustice and bad power in the way we distribute the food? Are we lied to in regard to what is on our plate? When we enter the normative realm, we enter the realm of ethics, understood in a wide and comprehensive way. As all normative questions, we need to be well informed by knowledge about how the world is, and what is at stake and for whom. We call this food ethics. Food ethics raises issues and asks questions in relation to food all along the value chains. It also puts things into relation with each other. At the same time it disentangles complex heaps of factors and pieces of knowledge, and looks for guidance. It is issue driven, rather than interest driven. It unites scholars with farmers and fishermen, chefs with industry, consumers with lawyers, and food citizens with authorities. As a young field within academia it is important to guard against efforts to appropriate the field for narrow interests, and instead to combine the natural and social sciences in analysing and addressing the challenges. We do not necessarily call for the grand ethical theory that explains it all, but rather start with the simple things in a very complex overall picture. We want to draw attention to ethically significant facts, discuss problematic developments, point to genuine dilemmas, learn about food relevant contexts and history, and look for individual, professional and institutional responses to ethical challenges and issues. Thus, one of the missions of this new journal Food Ethics, is to widen the scope and the discussion on the topic, and to be inclusive in terms of who has something to contribute to the field. There is no escaping from confronting very complex issues when it comes to managing one of the most basic needs we all have, food. As editors of this new journal we maintain that food ethics deserves special and inter-disciplinary attention by researchers, that it is not sufficiently dealt with by what is currently known as bioethics, that it is intrinsically connected with the so-called grand societal challenges of our time, that it is a globally important field which demands particular attention to complexities and uncertainties, as much as it needs to be explicit about what values are at stake and for whom, and which normative principles it touches upon.

Page Manager: Webmaster|Last update: 9/11/2012

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